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Mason Locke Weems Edit Profile

clergyman , salesman , writer

Mason Locke Weems was an American Episcopal minister, book salesman, and popular writer.


Mason Weems was born on October 11, 1759, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.


He studied theology in London and was ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1784.


He was admitted to the priesthood in 1784, serving in Maryland parishes until 1792.

For 31 years Weems roamed, gypsylike, from New York City to Savannah selling books.

Intellectuals ignored his writings, but the mass of people seemed not to get enough of them.

Weems had a remarkable ability to give the populace the untarnished heroes it craved.

He ardently believed that books should be uplifting.

He wrote moral tales—The Drunkard's Looking Glass (ca. 1812), God's Revenge against Adultery (1815), God's Revenge against Murder (1827)—and others.

The histories and biographies then being written of men noted during the American Revolution were sober tomes.

Weems's fictionalized biographies, which mixed pleasant myth with fact, were better known than the writings of any other American in the first half of the 19th century.

His books inculcated the prized virtues of industry, temperance, and frugality.

A strong supporter of Jefferson, Weems wanted to prevent Federalists from monopolizing Washington's fame.

In its fifth edition, Weems added the story of the cherry tree, which soon entered the national folklore.

Weems's biographies contained many inaccuracies.


  • The former, in its fifth edition in 1806, originated the legendary Washington cherry-tree story.

    Weems also wrote other biographies and moral tracts. More than a million copies of his books were sold, and they are still being reprinted.

    Weems wrote biographies of Benjamin Franklin, William Penn, and General Francis Marion, but his fame rested mainly on The Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington (1800).



He was admitted to the Anglican ministry in 1784 in England and for eight years thereafter served in Maryland parishes.


The Father of His Country, said Weems, was no aristocrat "but a pure Republican. "


Patriotism and moral behavior were encouraged by his work.

Quotations: This was a tough question and George staggered under it for a moment… 'I can't tell a lie, Pa, you know I can't tell a lie.

I did cut it with my hatchet. '


In 1795 he married Frances Ewell; they had 10 children.

Frances Ewell